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Younis Alzubieri on being Brown, a Nerd and 14 years old - FannBoy Friday
As a kid, obviously I loved a lot of comic books and TV shows and film, and I think the next gradual step from that is to just love film in general. Like as a kid, I loved movies, but it was the superhero part that really got me into it a lot more.
FannBoy Friday is a weekly column from Shahjehan Khan that highlights American Muslim creatives.
Younis is a digital content creator and budding actor who began making comic-related videos when he was just 14. He now has more than 100k TikTok followers and has since expanded the scope of topics he posts about. We crossed paths after Rifelion and ISF’s Writer’s Access Initiative where he just booked a 15 min timeslot to talk, and I knew that I’d like to get to know him more and hopefully work together one day.
(Younis’ interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Shahjehan: Why are you an “unashamed nerd”?
Younis: I think because I was ashamed of being a nerd as a kid for so long, that when I finally went online and found my community, I was like, “Oh, I don't have to be like, ashamed anymore.” So now I wear it, I forgot what the saying was, but you know what I'm saying? I love being a nerd. I don't care what people think. I'll go watch a movie three times. I'll go read a comic book in front of my parents. I don't care.
Shahjehan: What community are you referring to?
Younis: So I made my Instagram account when I was 14. That was me graduating the eighth grade. It was 2016, if you wanna feel old. And yeah I wanted to make an Instagram account, but I was never allowed, my parents didn't allow me to have social media, so I was like, you know what? I'm graduating, I gotta make an account. I gotta do something off this bucket list (I had a whole bucket list of things I wanted to do before I went to high school). So I made an Instagram account and I just started posting stuff that I liked. I didn't start posting selfies, like everyone in my class. I didn't post pictures of me and friends and stuff like that. It was literally like: “Hey, who’s excited for the newest episode of The Flash airing tonight, guys?” or “Have you guys read this new issue of DC?” It was just a bunch of stuff like that. And it just eventually started gathering up more and more followers, and then once I finally hit 10,000 followers, I told my parents, “Hey, I have an Instagram account.” And they were like, “WHAT!? You have social media?!” And I'm like, “Yeah, but don't worry…they don't have my face. Like I did not show my identity.” But once I finally hit 100k, I was able to convince them like, yo, please it's weird that they don't know that it's a 14 year old kid. I'm talking to a bunch of old people that know, like comic books and stuff like that. I feel like they'd be a little weirded out if they knew. So I I finally did a face reveal, and I'm like, “Hey, it's me, Younis, I'm brown. I'm a nerd, and I'm 14 years old, if you wanted to know that.” And then [people] were just like, you're 14 years old??!
Shahjehan: What are some of the things that you're passionate about?
Younis: As a kid, obviously I loved a lot of comic books and TV shows and film, and I think the next gradual step from that is to just love film in general. Like as a kid, I loved movies, but it was the superhero part that really got me into it a lot more — just the love of film as an art form and just film in general ... And that's what made me like I wanted to become a filmmaker. I wanted to become an actor. Ever since then.
Shahjehan: What’s an average day in your life?
Younis: It's summer break now, so it's like weird. I'm literally like doing absolutely nothing in my life. But [if I was] going to school. I would wake up around 8 for 9:30, 10:00 AM classes, take the train, go to class … break in between, then go to the deli across the street, get my sandwich. But of course, in between that I'm always on this thing [holds up phone]. I'm always on my phone every single time. I try to catch myself. I really do. I wanna limit my time on social media and limit my time on my phone. I never seem to be able to control myself though. When I'm back home either I'm on Twitch streaming, or I'm on Instagram going live, or I am playing on my PS5 with some friends or going outside, playing basketball.
I don't think I've ever even thought about that. What's a day in my life? I don't know. It's very boring. It's nothing crazy I swear…
Shahjehan: What do you think are the pros and cons of being a digital creator, assuming that’s how you identify yourself? Do you feel like you make stuff because you like to or do you feel like a need to? What would inspire you to make something? Is it like second nature?
Younis: I think like being on Instagram for a certain period of time, it was so much fun in the beginning, but towards the middle, like I'd say around 2019, right before COVID hit, it felt like a chore [because] I was reporting news. I was also the face behind a lot of the stuff I was posting, but I was also updating people on the news within the industry and within the comic book fandom. So, anytime something crazy would happen, I'd be like, “Oh my God, this is crazy.” And then I gotta report on it too.
So there was a period of time where I was so out of it, and that's why I rebranded myself. Like before, my page was called “World of Flash.” And then I rebranded in 2019/2020 to my name and my face “Younity.” I didn't wanna be known as the flash guy. I really didn't. I wanted to be behind my own identity, my own name. So after that, my page became a little bit more lax, a little bit more personal.
That's what really helped me, because I think had I not changed that I would not be on Instagram right now. I think I would've just gotten sick of it.
I also find myself wanting to limit myself like I want to be in the moment for a lot of things in my life, and I always find myself on my phone … when I'm outside and I'm just like, yo, what are you doing, son? It’s important to be in the moment when you're around people that you love, your family, friends, whatever.
Shahjehan: What are your goals or plans for the rest of this year?
Younis: It's hard with the strike, it's not like I was gonna do any SAG projects or be a part of the WGA, but I'm filming a short in North Carolina in about a week, [and] I'm really excited. I think I'm going to do another project in California in November. So I'm just trying to get more projects and acting in a lot more stuff, all like indie projects with friends. I just want to do more stuff being in front of the camera.
Shahjehan: Who are some of your inspirations in terms of other American Muslim creators?
Younis: I think my biggest inspiration was 100 percent Hassan Minhaj, 1000 percent. I think seeing him on the Daily Show, I saw “Homecoming King,” literally like fresh off of when I made my Instagram account. Seeing him literally just be like unapologetically himself — he never backed down. He never shied away from being himself. Whether it was on standup, whether it was on the Daily Show, or whether he was on a random talk show. Any talk show, you see this man and he literally takes over the interview. I don't know if you've seen this man on Jimmy Fallon. He literally, like Jimmy Fallon did not say a single word the entire time that he was on his talk show. I feel like Hasan … made me believe that I can do it.